A new study shows that temperature affects tarantulas’ ability to move. When they are exposed to high temperatures they lose their sense of coordination even though they remain fast.
The research was conducted on 8 adult Texas brown tarantulas. The scientists tested their speeds at different temperatures, of 59, 75, 88 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is special about spiders is the fact that their muscles are not their main driving force. Instead they use a liquid similar to blood which is called hemolymph. This liquid flows into the legs and makes them extend. The joint which is nearer to the body extends before the other. Afterwards the flexor muscles bend the joints and send the hemolymph back into the spider’s body. This liquid is sensitive to changes in temperature and therefore it has an impact on the way spiders move.
In order to check the coordination of the arachnids a white dot was painted on every joint of a foreleg and hind leg. Afterwards the spiders were filmed while rushing down a runway and the researchers compared the angle between the two joints on each leg. The results showed that when exposed to higher temperature the spiders had the tendency to turn around and become more changeable. In addition their speed increased along with the temperature: at the highest temperature the speed of the spiders increased by 2.5 times.
At 62 degrees Fahrenheit the spiders had a speed of 8.5 inches per second, whereas at 100 degrees Fahrenheit the speed was of 21 inches per second. This means that the increase was from 4 to 10 times the length of their body every second. Moreover when the temperature to which the spiders were exposed was higher or lower than usual the spiders took and attack position: they stood on their hind legs and lifted their front limbs.
Anna Ahn of HarveyMudd College explained that in a hotter environment and at a faster running speed the joints were not as coupled as in normal conditions. The running speed was increased not by the length of the stride but by the frequency. She also added that this experiment explains why tarantulas wait until sunset to venture out.
The results of this study may help scientists find out more about robotic movements since robots have much in common with spider limb movement. This is because spider limbs are also moving with the help of hydraulic fluid.
Image Source: University Of Buffalo
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